Neglected tropical diseases

Survival — The Deadliest Disease

Air date 11 October 2008
Season 1, Episode 2
By Producer/Director Rosalind Bain
BBC World News

As the plane touched down at Kinshasa airport, the dire warnings from everyone I had spoken to began to ring in my head. If you speak to anyone about the DRC, Google it, or read any press reports, the impression is that the Congo is hell on earth. It came therefore as a surprise to find that Kinshasa airport was much like any other major airport in the developing world - full of hustle and bustle and people trying to make an immediate buck out of the relatively rich foreigners.

Time and time again, we saw the problems that the average Congolese has to put up with. The further into the bush we went, the less of anything there was. Even if you had money, there was very little you could buy. It meant that for a documentary crew, travelling in the country was very difficult. Sometimes we would come across a town that had some resources, such as Nioki, where there was electricity. But just as you felt you could relax, an incident would happen that would show you what poverty and lawlessness there was. While we were in Nioki, thieves removed the copper from generator cables to sell the metal for a small amount. Their mean-spirited act plunged the town into darkness. It could take days before the copper was replaced.

Despite the problems, the sheer natural beauty of the river and the vast landscapes were wonderous to behold. Our whole visit and shoot would not have been possible but for the help, efficiency and sheer determination of the Congolese Sleeping Sickness Programme. That they manage to get anything done at all is a minor miracle and a testament to their commitment and professionalism in a country where very little works.